Israel may be increasingly isolated globally, but you wouldn’t know it from the scene in New York today. A right-wing crowd of thousands rallied earlier today at Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza against the ongoing Durban III conference and the Palestinian Authority bid for United Nations recognition of statehood.
The demonstration was organized by a group called the Jerusalem Institute of Justice. But by far the largest contingent of participants came from the evangelical Christian community. The Eagles’ Wings, an evangelical Christian group, brought droves of Christian Zionists out to wave the Israeli flag, hold signs to insist that Israel will “stay on the map” and cheer against the division of Jerusalem.
“It’s important for the Christian community to stand up for Israel,” twenty-year old Rutgers University student Hannah Johnson told me. “We’re from the same roots, we both hold a lot of the same ideals and beliefs, and their God’s chosen people, so we choose to stand with them.”
The rally took aim at the Durban III conference, which marks ten years since the first UN conference against racism in Durban, South Africa. Many hard-line supporters of Israel have advocated against the Durban conferences because of what they see as an unfair focus on Israel.
“The whole Durban conference…is appalling to us, and we don’t want our children to be taught [anti-Zionism] and we don’t want it spread in the United States via the UN,” said Sheree Krause, a Christian Zionist from Virginia, as her and her son passed out free Israeli flags.
It wasn’t only Christian evangelicals that came out to the rally, though. Americans for a Safe Israel (AFSI), a pro-settler organization whose executive director spoke at a memorial event for the far-right extremist Meir Kahane last year, was also present. One member of Americans for a Safe Israel carried a sign that read “Jews Want Peace, Arabs Want Pieces.”
“The whole land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people,” said Helen Freedman, the executive director of AFSI.
“The unilateral declaration of independence is very, very dangerous, because what it does is signal to the Arabs that they now have a state…There’s no legitimacy to their claim for a state, but the population will get the message that they do have entitlement and the whole situation will really spiral out of control.”
And of course, the Israeli government’s point man on outreach to Christian Zionists–Likud Party member Danny Danon–was there. Danon recently appeared with Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry at a press conference where Perry blasted President Obama’s record on Israel.
At the rally, Danon told Obama to loud cheers to “wake up” and focus on the threat of Iran.
Despite that praise, though, the rally served as a reminder that Obama will spend a good portion of his re-election campaign defending his record on Israel, especially against the likes of Perry. But no matter how deferential Obama is to Israeli wishes, winning over the crowd at a rally like this isn’t going to happen.